Patch 23.2.2 is finally live and, as promised, we received balance changes regarding the Standard format. While we don't have to be surprised that we got buffs on top of nerfs (we knew it all along), what really amazes us is that Team 5 went in hard, delivering a total of 20 (!) balance changes spread throughout multiple classes - incredible job.
In case you missed them, here are all the card changes that are already live. Let's start with the 3 nerfs:
- Drek'Thar - Now summons just 1 minion from your deck (down from 2).
- Multi-Strike - Cost is now 2 mana (up from 1).
- Dragonbane Shot - Cost is now 3 mana (up from 2).
Here are all the 17 buffs:
- Demon Hunter
In this article we're going to go through each of the 17 nerfs - we also published an analysis on the 3 nerfs included in this patch, which we advise you to check out! Given the high number of buffs we received, our commentary will be very concise - we do not really want to write a poem-like article and you do not really want to read it!
Preliminary to this patch, we wrote a buffs prediction article, listing all the cards we thought were worthy of consideration by Team 5: how well did we do?
Demon Hunter Buffs - Preliminary Thoughts
A single buff for Demon Hunter, the class that got hurt the most by this round of balance changes. Illidan's Xhilag of the Abyss, which promotes a gameplay slower than the Aggro Naga builds that were so common prior patch, was one of the least performing Colossals introduced with the Sunken City expansion, which explains why its received some love.
Xhilag's Stalks deal 2 damage (up from 1).
This change puts Xhilag of the Abyss on a level similar to Ragnaros the Firelord: each Stalk will do 2 damage at the end of the turn, for 8 total damage randomly spread across all enemies. The differences? 1 less mana to pay, the fact that each separate body can attack and therefore the enormous Kurtrus, Demon-Render.
If this is not enough for you, remember that Drek'Thar got nerfed, so Demon Hunter may want to look for heavy top-end finishers, and Xhilag seems to fit such role perfectly. The card looks very promising now.
Hunter Buffs - Preliminary Thoughts
Despite Iksar mentioning only Priest and Warlock in his latest AMA, Hunter is crying tears of joy: three buffs, all of which look really interesting and that are going to promote a direction the class hasn't followed that much in the past.
Both cards now have +1 Attack (from 3/3 to 4/3).
As we pointed out in our buffs prediction article, a 4 mana 3/3 is just sad, doesn't really matter if it has Rush or if it has a good Deathrattle. Increasing Azsharan Saber and Sunken Saber's Attack to 4 seems to us like an owed change, so we're glad it took Team 5 only one month to realize it and correct their initial aim.
All in all, more support for Big Beast Hunter, but what's really going to push this archetype is the next buff on the list.
Now discounts the Dredged Beast by 3 mana (up from 2).
As pointed out by Hearthstone Game Designer Gallon, Harpoon Gun's is among the most powerful changes introduced in this patch. To be fair, the weapon saw play even in the pre-patch realm, but it is fair to assume that the devs felt like they needed to give Rexxar something in return for (indirectly) nerfing Defend the Dwarven District. Considering that Face Hunter is nowhere to be found and that there doesn't seem any other class archetypes available, we agree with Blizzard's philosophy.
Regarding the card itself, a 3 mana discount is huge: after being Dredged up, Sunken Saber will cost just 1 mana, while Hydralodon and Mountain Bear will be playable in exchange of only 4 crystals. You'll be able to drop chunky Beasts way ahead of time, to the point where always keeping Harpoon Gun in your mulligan will hardly be a mistake.
Stats are now 4/4 (up from 3/3).
Ever since Pet Collector was released in the Onyxia's Lair Mini-Set, I have always had the impression that most of the community was just sleeping on it, and for not actual reason. It's half Guardian Animals that comes down 3 turns ahead of time, which is wonderful for Hunter's usual pace; if you don't want to see it this way, consider it as a free 3/3 alongside a Beast that thins your deck by one card.
Improving Pet Collector's stats not only will make many players reconsider this unit's overall power level, but will also help Big Beast Hunter, which comes out as one of the clear winners of this balance patch.
Priest - Preliminary Thoughts
4 buffs for Priest: although you may not feel their weight right now, we're sure they're going to matter in the future, when new cards will be released.
Cost is now 7 mana (down from 8).
With this change, Blackwater Behemoth represents a comically large amount of stats for just 7 mana - if there were any doubts about the card's viability, this buff is probably going to dissipate them all.
Moreover, Behemoth costing 7 means that Seek Guidance will be able to fill one of the most intricate mana spots to cover in order to complete the Questline: not saying the deck will become broken, but rather that Blackwater Behemoth's 1 mana buff will have multiple applications.
Cost is now 8 mana (down from 9).
More on par with Twisting Nether. Now this card looks a lot more playable, covering the same role of "late game board reset" that Psychic Scream, Soul Mirror and Plague of Death all covered in different ways.
Control Priest isn't quite here yet, but this is a start.
Cost is now 1 mana (down from 2).
With Shadow Priest in shambles after April's rotation, we think this buff won't move the archetype by a single inch in the current environment. However, we also think that Team 5 has been working a bit proactively, meaning that we're probably gonna receive new cards that will justify this buff - Sunken City's mini-set will probably give us the answer we're looking for.
Now gives +1/+2 (up from +1/+1).
Probably the only Priest buff out of the four the class has received that is going to matter immediately. Although the +1 Health may not seem crazy, we think it's going to be incredibly relevant, especially since a double cast will grant +2/+4 instead of just +2/+2 - high Health minions are really difficult to remove in the early game, and Serpent Wig is a great tool for Priest to gain control of the board and, who knows, create the right occasion for Bless to finally see competitive play.
Rogue Buffs - Preliminary Thoughts
Rogue was not in a shape as bad as Priest and Warlock, but we can't say it was in a good spot either. With most of the Sunken City set focused on Pirates, all other archetypes fell behind, forcing the class into a rather inconvenient and "one-dimensional" place, where it would either succeed with its only deck or fall off and become completely irrelevant.
The buffs you'll see below aim to improve Burgle and SI:7 Rogue, wishing that they'll be effective enough to give Valeera more variety.
Cost is now 2 mana (down from 3).
3 mana Tooth wasn't worth any sort of consideration, but now that it is basically a Frostbite the card looks way more interesting and competitively viable. It's almost as if Team 5 released a new card for Valeera, who wholeheartedly thanks.
Rebalanced into a 5 mana 4/5 (from a 6 mana 3/5).
Now that Secret Passage isn't in Standard anymore, there is no way for you to get 0 mana Gnolls on turn 1 or 2, and the reason that led to Wildpaw Gnoll's nerf is that it used to come down earlier than supposed, mainly because of this interaction.
Bringing back a fully unnerfed Gnoll feels to us as a very ambitious gamble from Team 5, but at least Rogue will have something else to play other than Pirates.
Cost is now 7 mana (down from 8).
Tess was printed around 4 years ago, so it is fair for it to receive a mana cost buff for it to match Standard's current powerlevel. It wasn't a change we saw coming, but it is in line with Team 5's decision to make Burgle Rogue more viable and Rogue's class more diverse.
If you think about it, Burgle Rogue has gone from being a lategame value meme (especially thanks to Spectral Cutlass and Academic Espionage) to a tempo-oriented build: given this shift within the archetype, Tess Greymane's new cost seconds its new role very well.
Now has 4 Health (up from 3).
Partially the same reasoning behind Tess Greymane's buff: you cannot give 2022 Standard cards from from 2019. Hench-Clan Burglar's 3 Health was a bit sketchy even back in the day, so this change will help the card to find a place in Constructed.
The unimproved version summons a 1-Cost Minion (up from 0).
The balance log of this unit is actually hilarious:
- Back when it was released, its effect was equivalent to this buff.
- Due to card text inconsistencies, it was basically nerfed, as it didn't count itself anymore towards its effect.
- While is still doesn't count itself, now the starting cost of the summoning unit will be 1 and not 0.
- If you play Smuggler without having played any other SI:7 card before, it will summon a 1-drop and not a 0-drop.
As you can see, back and forth changes for SI:7 Smuggler, whose buff is obviously directed towards making Find the Imposter a little better and giving Rogue yet another archetype to play with on ladder.
This buff is not going to turn the card upside down, as it's just a little improvement, but we'll still take it!
Warlock Buffs - Preliminary Thoughts
Another class that desperately needed some help, and Team 5 delivered. Murloc and Curse, the two Warlock archetypes pushed in Voyage to the Sunken City, received two buffs each, hoping that they'll position the class higher in the meta tiers.
Sira'kess Cultist - Stats are now 3/4 (up rom 2/3).
Dragged Below - Cost is now 3 mana (down from 4).
We'll discuss these two buffs together because, in our opinion, they start from the same place and have have the same goal. "Curse" Warlock has been one of the most unsuccessful Sunken City archetypes so far: during the reveal season, many players pointed out that most of the cards belonging to this package seemed overcosted, and the actual gameplay confirmed everyone's (low) expectations.
Team 5 was probably scared of Curse Warlock, a deck that does not feel really good to play against, would've warped the meta. However, such scenarios did not materialize, so buffing the archetype little step by little step is the right approach.
Both it and Sunken Scavenger are 2 mana 2/3s (from 3 mana 3/4s).
That's what we're talking about. As a Murloc (and therefore aggressive) deck, you cannot really afford to play a Spider Tank with no immediate impact on the board: your early game is just too important for you. Yes, even at 3 mana, Sunken Scavenger is quite the unit, but you would've needed to jump through one too many hoops to get your hands on it.
With Azsharan Scavenger at 2 mana, you'll be able to place its Sunken version at the bottom of your deck one turn earlier and possibly Dredge it on turn 3 with with Rock Bottom (plus, for example Life Tap or Voidgill) or the other freshly buffed Murloc: Bloodscent Vilefin. Amusing buff.
Rebalanced into a 3 mana 3/4 (from 4 mana 4/4).
A potentially scary buff, as we all know how powerful mana-cheat mechanics are, and Bloodscent Vilefin allows for potential turn 4 Mutanus the Devourer or Gigafin, as well as any other expensive Murlocs we'll see in the future.
We're not saying that the card will now be extremely broken, but rather that the chances to get there are much higher. By the way, Murlock will absolutely love this change, which lines up perfectly with the the aforementioned Azsharan Scavenger for a turn 2-3-4 dream curve.
What do you think about these buffs? Are there any other cards you would've liked to see improved? Let us know in the comments below!